Developing writing skills

The fifteen minute forum was led tonight by Harriet Schuler – our Deputy Leader in Science.

Our science department have been developing  ways in which they can support students with their extended writing – particularly in response to the new style exam questions.  They have had some excellent support from Karen Parks (@betterscience1) who must also be credited for some of the resources and ideas here.

Step 1 – Understanding command words

mugs-12Show students an image like the one to the left. Ask them to then do the following to the mugs, one at a time:

1. Describe the mugs

2. Explain the differences in the mugs

3. Compare the similarities and differences between the mugs

4. Evaluate the mugs

Once they have done this, unpick how what they did for each of the command words e.g. how did they compare the mugs?  How did they evaluate them? etc.  Then go on to relate this to exam questions.

Step 2 – Interpreting the question


You can use ‘Exam Talk’ in a number of ways to help both high and low ability.  Students can just discuss the question in pairs prior to answering, or students can fill in the sheet (I have them laminated and they use mini-white board pens) individually or in pairs before answering the question.

I have also used this to help students plan writing exam style questions for each another as well as using it to write mark schemes.

3. Planning their response

Having identified the correct command word for the question, students can use the following writing skeltons to plan their answer, before writing it in full:

writing skeletons

4. Writing the answer

Students can then use some or all of the planning and interpreting support strategies to write their final answer.

To mix it up a little, you can ask students to break down a full answer and summarise it into one of the skeletons.

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4 Responses to Developing writing skills

  1. Osei Sarkodee says:

    This is brilliant! I will definitely be adapting & using this. Thanks

  2. Reblogged this on paddington teaching and learning and commented:
    A very nice short post from Durrington High School in West Sussex and their excellent blog. Note the similarities in the writing frameworks used here with our ‘Thinking Wall@ templates which encourage a similar approach. Great stuff.

  3. Sue marooney says:

    Excellent ideas Harriet, well done and thank you

  4. Lovely idea. I’ve tried something similar with GCSE groups and exam question language with blackberry vs iPhone. Idea came from somebody else. such enthusiasm from students, they surprised themselves…and I learned a lot about phones too!

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